Lok Sabha approves two bills to replace NEET ordinances
A significant bill aimed at putting in place a single common examination for medical and dental courses was on Wednesday passed by the Lok Sabha, with the government saying even private colleges will be under its ambit.
The Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the The Dentists (Amendment) Bill, 2016 provides a Constitutional status to the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) examination" which is intended to be introduced in the academic session next year.
The Bill seeks to amend the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and the Dentists Act, 1948 and replace the Ordinances that were promulgated by the government to circumvent the Supreme Court order for implementation of NEET examination this session itself.
Moving the Bill for consideration and passing, Health Minister J P Nadda said there were three main objectives behind the move -- end the multiplicity of examinations, have fair and transparent examinations and adopt non-exploitative process.
He said earlier students would have to travel long distances to appear for several medical entrance examinations.
Currently students undergo exploitation particularly with regard to the caiptation fees, he said, adding the new legislation will end this.
Responding to apprehensions expressed by members, particularly Tamil Nadu where reservation is upto 85 per cent, he clarified, "We are not going to touch the state quota.
Students in Tamil Nadu will be competing in Tamil Nadu only.. We should be very much clear about that."
However, AIADMK members were not satisfied and staged a walkout.
Nadda said the exam will be held on the basis of the syllabus of NCERT and the under-graduate exam will be taken up by CBSE and post-graduation by the national board of examination.
"In the syllabus, we will take care of the differences and we will do standardisation of syllabus so that rural students can also taken care of," he added.
Responding to contention by some members that NEET will provide benefits to private institutions, the Health Minister denied that and said their exams will also be conducted under NEET.
On the concerns over fees in the private medical colleges, he said a committee of judges will decide the fees for private colleges while the government will do it for government institutes.
With regard to apprehensions over whether exams will be conducted in regional languages, Nadda said, "we will also arrange test in regional languages and that is not an issue".
The health ministry has written to all the states seeking details about the number of students who appeared in local languages in the last three years so that the Centre can make plans accordingly.
Nadda also responded to concerns over the involvement of Medical Council of India as some members alleged that the body is "corrupt" and does not perform its duties properly.
"A committee has been set up by the Prime Minister and that is at the final stage. Stakeholders have been called. The report is being finalised. We take cognisance of the issue," he said.
RSP member Premachandran, who had moved statutory amendments to the Bill, praised Nadda for addressing all issues in a "clear manner". While not going ahead with moving the amendments, he said, "I am very much impressed" by the minister's response.
Earlier, Premachandran said he fully agrees with the content of the Bill but disapproves of the Ordinance route adopted by the Centre.
Cutting across party lines, members also cited judicial overreach and said the Supreme Court should not dictate government on what to do.
"Judiciary is discharging functions of the Executive. They are trespassing into all spheres. The responsibility of judiciary is to interpret the legislation," Premachandran said.
KC Venugopal (Cong) said uniform entrance test is a necessity to avoid irregularity and corruption but Supreme Court cannot dictate on which date the exam should be conducted.
Raising issues over the functioning of the Medical Council of India (MCI), Venugopal said that a Standing Committee report too had highlighted this.
"MCI has failed in discharging its duties. The government should bring a comprehensive act to amend the medical council act and improve functioning of MCI," Venugopal said.
He also raised the issue of private coaching institutes making money as students will have to study everything afresh for NEET.
Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai, who was in the Chair, too remarked that students will give too much importance to NEET preparations and that would impact their preformace in higher secondary examination.
Sanjay Jaiswal (BJP) demanded that the process of conducting NEET should be foolproof like UPSC examination.
TG Venkatesh Babu (AIADMK) demanded that states should not be forced to adopt NEET from 2017 and it should be left to the states to decide whether they want their own examination or choose to have uniform test.
Babu said since the NEET would be conducted only in two languages, students who are from poor background and studied in regional languages, they will lose out compared to the elite category students.
During the debate, Mallikarjun Kharge (Cong) and Saugata Roy (TMC) expressed concern over Centre's handling of medical colleges run by Employee's State Insurance Corporation.
Under mounting pressure from several states, government had in May promulgated two ordinances to keep state boards out of the ambit of uniform medical and dental entrance examination, National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), for this year.
The amendment bill 2016 also seeks to amend section 33 of the Act to enable the Council to make regulations for all matters connected with the conduct of uniform entrance examinations.
Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar (Trinamool Congress) suggested that the common examination should be conducted in all recognised languages and should not clash with board examinations being conducted by the state governments.
Describing the Medical Council of India (MCI) a "corrupt" body, she said it could not be entrusted with the task of conducting entrance examination.
She also criticised the health policy of the centre saying it was 'lop sided' and focused only on examinations.
B Mahtab (BJD) wanted to know how under the new system 85 percent seats in the medical colleges would be reserved for the students belonging to the state.
He also expressed apprehension over the ability of the MCI to conduct enxtrance examination for medical collages.
Mahtab said he was not in a position to support the bill and added, "don't bring the bill because you are prodded by the Supreme Court. Don't get prodded."
Several members were of the opinion that the NEET, which is more based on the syllabus of the CBSE, should also take the syallabus of the state boards into account.
However, a large section of members came hard on the functioning of the Medical Council of India. This made Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai intervene into the matter suggesting whether amendments could be made in the law under which government can assert control to ensure better functioning of the MCI.
Shrikant Shinde (Shiv Sena) said it was important to have a level playing field and uniformity needs to be brought in the NEET.
He said students hailing from North should be allowed to have a say in taking admission in a college from his region.
If a student is posted in South India or any other point, then langauge could be a barrier in treating patients, he said.
Welcoming the legislation, P Ravindra Babu (TDP) demanded that a paper on Law and Moral and Ethics should be introduced for medical students.
Likening NEET to making a diesel car run on petrol, B N Goud (TRS) said there needs to be uniformity of syllabus.
MB Rajesh (CPM) demanded that NEET be conducted in all languages mentioned in Schedule VIII of the Constituion.
Varaprasad Rao Velagapalli (YSRCP) came out in favour of the Supreme Court judgement saying the present examination system was only for the rich. He also emphasised on the Common Exit Test so that only best students be allowed to practise in the larger interest of the society. The TRS MP was highly criticial of functioning of the MCI.
Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary also criticised the functioning of MCI.
Former Union Health Minister and PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss voiced strong opposition to NEET saying it is against "social justice, social equity" apart from doing "gross injustice to rural students".
Asking what is the need for an entrance examination, he said NEET should be done away with and urged the government to take up the matter with the Supreme Court.
As soon as Ramadoss completed his speech, AIADMK leader and Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai, who was in the chair, said sense of the House is that and the Minister concerned also knows the issue.
Supriya Sule (NCP) wondered what is the logic behind having a common entrance test even as she emphasised that she was not against having a single examination.
However, the impression about the NEET is that it is "pro-urban and pro-CBSE", she noted.
"What really do you (government) have in mind?... Please do rethink," Sule asked and stressed that the government should look at ways of having more doctors in the country.
Dushyant Chautala (INLD) raised concerns about high costs involved in medical education, especially in getting admissions.
In the context of NEET, he said that students who have studied state boards might not be able to compete with those who have studied CBSE syllabus.
Noting that medical education is costly, Kaushalendra Kumar (JD-U) suggested that the Centre should look at providing financial assistance of around Rs 15-20 lakh to students who clear NEET.
Heena Gavit (BJP) said common medical entrance is a welcome move but then there should also be a common syllabus and added that post graduate entrance examinations should be conducted in only English.
Participating in the discussion, ET Mohammed Basheer (IUML) called for a comprehensive legislation to control private medical institutions.
Expelled RJD member Rajesh Ranjan also spoke.